The hubbie can home with a nice piece of beef shank this week. We argued for some time over how best to utilise this meaty joint (a pie, chilli con carne etc) and eventually both agreed on a hearty, flavoursome stew to warm us all up on these dark, cold winter days.

I must admit that Sundays always sing ‘beef’ to me, it brings back memories of my mum’s favourite roast. She used to serve it very well done, sliced around two centimetres thick with the most unctuous gravy you ever did taste. This meal certainly had the latter quality and also provided the reminiscent ‘comfort factor’ I like to indulge in at the end of the week. I am hopeful that my kids will follow on the tradition.

This plate was devised by Dan and I’m still constantly amazed at his ability to marry certain ingredients and flavours together to create something quite outstanding. He pretty much always gets it right. Today was no exception.

To make this stew (to serve four) you will need: a beef shank, a pack of lambs kidneys, two carrots (thickly sliced), two onions (sliced), three garlic cloves (chopped), a knob of butter, 2 tablespoons plain flour, half a pint of chicken stock, half a pint of dark ale, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and seasoning.

For the dumplings:
175g self raising flour, 75g shredded suet, water to bind and seasoning.

Method:
– Flour the meat and kidneys (using half the flour).
– Brown both on the hob in a little oil, remove from pan and set aside. Add a knob of butter to the dish and soften the onions and carrots for ten minutes.
– Add the garlic for 1 minute, then the rest of the flour for 1 minute.
– Add the meat and kidneys back into the dish, plus the stock, ale and rest of the ingredients. Season to taste.
– Bring to the boil, cover and place in a low oven (gas mark two) for an hour and a half.

20131215-201455.jpg– Take the meat off the bone and cut into large chunks. Leave in the dish along with the bone and continue cooking for approximately another 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and tender.
– Combine all ingredients to make the dumplings up (soft dough, not sticky) and roll into balls.
– Remove the bone and add the dumpling balls (approximately 8). Leave to cook for a further 20 minutes.

The thing that really makes this meal is the addition of the bone to the pot once it has been stripped of the meat. As it cooks, the bone marrow slowly seeps out and into the sauce, and not only thickens it, but adds a sweet depth of flavour that is off the scale, against the tang of the Worcestershire and the heavy maltiness of the ale.

You certainly need those dumplings to cut through the richness, but who doesn’t like a good dumpling? Little novelties nestling in amongst all that tasty stew. We served ours with an ample helping of Brussel Sprouts on the side (delighted they are back in season).

Good job husband. I think you’re a keeper.

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